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Chapter 4 - Day 1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2022

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Summary

We arrived at the main entrance of Museum Africa at 9 am on Monday 22 April 2013, where we introduced Tsamkxao ≠Oma, Dawid Cgunta Bo, Lena Gwaxan Cgunta and Joa Cwi, the San elders who would be our informants during the coming week, and our translator, ≠Oma Tsamkgao (Leon), to the curator of the Fourie Collection, Diana Wall. We also introduced the film crew and other members of the team who would record the details of the objects to be discussed. Once the viewing area was set up and the film crew started filming, each of us introduced ourselves to the group, and Lucinda and Francesco said a few words about Louis Fourie and the collection. (For a description of how the viewing area was arranged and the objects displayed and handled by the elders, see the box on page 36.) We then discussed with the elders and the curator how best to organise the work of examining the objects and discussing the elders’ interpretations of them. In every session we would follow the same procedure: each object was passed to the elders and we asked a series of questions about it, starting with whether they could identify the object, its function, who made it, who used it, and where and when this happened. We then asked more detailed questions about its manufacture and, if pertinent, about features of the object such as burning, decoration or colour. Finally, we asked about the symbolic meaning of the object, and concluded by asking the elders if they had a story to tell concerning that type of object. The elders discussed each object they were shown intensively, inspecting it closely, and handling some objects with great familiarity.

Mm40/69/1205 Iron Awl With a Wooden Handle

The first item presented to the elders was labelled by Fourie as an awl. It comprises a thin pointed iron rod hafted in a wooden handle (figure 4.2). The metal inserts into a broader cuff, along which is an area that has fine incisions highlighted by black infill. Traces of burning mark both ends of the handle. The elders identified the object as San, but not Ju/’hoansi, and suggested that it might have been made by San in contact with Bantu-speaking people.

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Information
San Elders Speak
Ancestral Knowledge of the Kalahari San
, pp. 35 - 58
Publisher: Wits University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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